War Talks and BAMBY18 Update

As some of you who regularly attend the Talk Series may know, we have been awaiting news on the temporary closure of our venue, the Prince Consort’s Library in Aldershot, for several months.  It has recently been confirmed that the building will close from late July – early December 2018.  During that period, the Library be emptied and a temporary, limited service established by the Army Libraries Information Service (ALIS) within New Normandy Barracks, Aldershot.  This is good news for the Library, which will receive new electrics for the first time in a century, securing its use as a venue for the education of the soldier long into the future.  It is also good news for both the War Talks at PCL Talk Series and the British Army Military Book of the Year 2018, as it gives me a definitive guideline within which to operate.  I had only booked guest speakers up until 8 May 2018 in anticipation of an earlier closure, but can now book-in up to four more speakers before the Library closes, and find a temporary venue for our Talks from September – December 2018.

I have received some kind offers regarding accommodation, notably from within the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, however, this would both limit our audience and create a temptation to stay in the bosom of our academic colleagues at Camberley.  The purpose of the Series and BAMBY18 is essentially twofold: to encourage service personnel and civil servants to carry out informal Professional Military Education (PME) as an enabler of military adaptability, and to support the continued work of the PCL.  Given these aims, it is essential that the Series and BAMBY 18 remain in Aldershot, both the Home of the British Army, and home to four major Army headquarters and six Army major units.  I will therefore be looking for a venue, outside the wire, and easily accessed by military and civilian audiences alike for the Autumn period.  I have had some suggestions, the churches for example, and look forward to hearing your suggestions.  It is anticipated that the Talk Series and BAMBY18 will return to the PCL in December 2018 for the presentation of the BAMBY Prize.

Talking of the Prize, I’m sure you will have seen my earlier Blog posts regarding the shortlist and judging criteria for the BAMBY18, our judges are busying themselves as we speak, reading and deliberating.  As a matter of fact, on Tuesday 10 April 2018, Dr Aimee Fox will speak on her shortlisted book at PCL.  Aimee will be the second of the shortlisted authors to speak at PCL this year, with Lt Gen (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely KCB MC having spoken there in July 2017.  Now that I have a little room for manoeuvre, I hope to be able to welcome several more of the shortlisted authors along to speak.  Indeed, it is likely that we have tempted Professor Theo Farrell all the way from Australia for a Talk in July!!  The extension to the available time for talks has also allowed me to book an academic whose work I greatly admire and who I have been chasing for several months.  I am pleased to announce that on Wed 23 May 18, Dr David Morgan Owen of King’s College London and the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom will speak to us on the subject of, ‘War as it Might Have Been: British Sea Power and the First World War’.  Hopefully, by moving to a naval topic, we will expand the War Talks audience and broaden the interests of our loyal followers.

I look forward to seeing you all at an event in Aldershot soon,

All the best,

Barney

 

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We Will Remember Them?

Tomorrow sees the 101st anniversary of the death of my Great Great Uncle, 28337 Lance Corporal Joshua Bartle Gailes of the 20th Bn Durham Light Infantry.  He was killed by German artillery as he emerged from the Queen Victoria Communication Trench at St Eloi, near Ypres on Tuesday, 3rd April 1917 and is buried in the Klein Vierstraat Cemetery only a few miles away.  There are, as far as I can tell, another two family members who met their end serving in the First World War: a cousin, PLY/911(S) Private Robert Thomas Platten of the 2nd Bn Royal Marine Light Infantry who fought at Gallipoli, on the Ancre, was killed during the Battle of Arras at Gavrelle on 28th April 1917, and is ‘known unto God’.  The other, another cousin, 143023 Private Adam Barron McClellan of the 25th Bn Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), died of his wounds on 16 April 1918, having been captured at Bailleul in the Georgette Offensive; he is buried at Ghent.

In addition, there are perhaps a dozen other family members, miners and labourers in the Edwardian era, for whom the Army represented a release.  My Great Grandfather, who fought on the Somme and at Passchendaele, survived the War, and died an alcoholic in 1961.  A Great, Great Uncle joined up in 1915 and apart from a brief spell at Gallipoli spent the war guarding Malta, being famously wounded by a bullet in the arse!  His brother manned a howitzer on the Somme.  In recent weeks, I have discovered cousins who fought on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, with differing degrees of success; one, a Lance Sergeant in the Tyneside Irish, witnessed over 50% casualties in his Unit and subsequently fought at Ypres and during the German Spring Offensives, the other, a Private in the 8th Bn, Norfolk Regiment had a far more successful first day and survived the War albeit after taking part in numerous other actions.

In recent weeks, I have been involved in four Battlefield Tours taking children from England out to Ypres, and down to the Somme.  In all, I would imagine I have escorted almost 200 children, of whom only a handful profess to have family members who fought or died, but all of whom will stand at the Menin Gate in Ypres and respectfully repeat, ‘We Will Remember Them’ at eight o’clock each evening.  Now, I am not being supercilious; I was brought up in a Service family, told to keep the Silence on Remembrance Day on pain of death, and had no knowledge of family members who would then have been elderly veterans (yes, I am that old).  I was thus in the same boat as all the kids taken to Flanders in the last two months at their age, it wasn’t that I didn’t care, just that I didn’t know!!  I have only become aware of the ‘Barnes Platoon’ since 2010, and was the first of my family to visit Joshua’s grave. in almost a hundred years, in February 2015, perhaps one has to turn 40 to find these things vital.

When I was stood at the Gate a fortnight ago, I heard several people complaining that the young kids had ‘no respect’, I would challenge that; they respect what they know and it is down to us Oldies to ensure that kids understand both Remembrance and their own personal stories.  We need to take the plank from our own eyes before we worry about kids’ splinters!  So grown-ups, research your family platoons and tell your kids about them before Remembrance becomes meaningless.  Lets not lose faith with those who lie in Flanders Fields.

All the best,

Barney